Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thinking about Going East, and Rain Gear

After wrapping up our once-in-a-lifetime trip out west this summer, I was amazed that within a few days, Mary Ann and I started talking about another trip next year, but out East. And that naturally brings me to this topic.  Rain.  Because the only other time I ever tried to do an eastern tour, I got so much rain I made a beeline for the interior, where it is usually dry in the summer.

This summer of 2012 was very dry for us.  We got rain only three times in six weeks while motorcycling.  The first time, in Saskatchewan, we put on our rain gear for about an hour, then stopped for lunch and put them away after, because it had already dried up.  Second time was approaching Victoria BC, where there was no place to pull over and we got wet before stopping at Boston Pizza.  The third and last time was the second last day.  We put on our rain suits, but the rain was long and hard enough that Mary Ann got wet, although I didn't.

Now if we are to go East, we can't expect this much good luck with rain.  So I would like to figure out what was wrong with Mary Ann's gear, and get it right next time.  And this brings me to a discussion of rain gear for motorcycles.  I am going to need a separate paragraph, because my ramblings will not fit in one sentence.

Where are we going with high tech rain gear these days?  One trend I find very disturbing is putting the waterproof layers UNDER the regular jackets and pants.  To the manufacturers, this seems very sensible, I guess.  To me it seems very stupid.  The theory is that you will not have to stop and put on your rain suit, and then stop again to take it off, and I understand the appeal of that logic, but lets get real for a minute.  I do not want to wear a rain suit all day every day in case it rains once on my trip, especially when the temperature is in the 80-100F range or 30-40c range. So that means I have to take off my jacket and pants at the side of the road, when it starts raining, to put my waterproof layers underneath.  Now the jacket is OK, but I'm not doing that with my pants, and neither is Mary Ann.

The fact is, it is impossible to have a cool, protective jacket and pants if they also need to be waterproof.  Gore-Tex or no Gore-Tex.  I just don't understand why the motorcycle gear manufacturers are forcing us down this route, which so far, anyway, has not worked.  I am even doubtful of the use of zip-in thermal liners.

I think it makes sense to wear armoured, protective gear all the time while travelling by motorcycle.  Armoured protective gear can be designed to be cool as well, and I am OK with the gear we have already - except that it came with waterproof and thermal liners, which I am sure boosted the cost.  To prepare for this trip I stripped out all the liners, if any, and instead packed along a few sweatshirts to put on under the jacket if it got too cold.  Those sweatshirts are more versatile on vacation than the jacket liners. In case of rain (or possibly extreme cold), I packed a two piece rain suit to go over the motorcycle jacket and pants. That way I can put it on and take it off beside the road with no embarrassment.  And, even more important, the rainsuit can be more waterproof than the "breathable water resistant" liners that they replace. I say "can be more waterproof" because a lot depends on the material, and the quality of the seams etc.  At any rate, for a rain suit I do not worry about "Breathable" material. It can be totally waterproof non-breathable plastic for all I care.  When I'm riding in rain, I just want to keep the rain out.  When the sun comes out, I will take it off.

Another advantage of stopping to put on rain gear, is that you can also put on protective hand covers and boot covers. It does not take much longer to do, and is very worth while in the rain.  But the trick remains in knowing when and where to stop.

About a decade ago, it was actually more difficult to decide when to put on a rain suit, and when to take it off.  So difficult in fact, that the idea of being able to wear rainproof gear all the time sounded appealing to me, because I hate stopping when I'm going long distances.  And I often was wrong about when to put on or remove the rain suit anyway. But in the year 2012, with radar weather available on my smart phone, some of the guesswork is gone about rain patterns.  So now I'm once again a believer in stopping to put on the rain gear.

Picture: Our first stop to put on rain gear, in Saskatchewan.  Since I already had the smartphone out looking at the weather radar, it seemed like a good idea to also make a phone call home.  And take a picture of what we were doing.  BTW, that is just a side road, not the Trans Canada Highway (Yellowhead Route)


  1. I've come to the conclusion that there is no 'perfect' solution to this issue ... it seems that whenever I've adopted a new approach, it has come with its own (generally unanticipated) flaws or drawbacks.

    On the other hand, I must admit that things are now unquestionably better than back when some of us dinosaurs started riding motorcycles. Armoured jackets with ventilation and better water resistance than our old leather jackets are now available at relatively low cost.

    And, personally, I don't find zip-in liners that much of hassle - on the road, it tends to be question of removing them as the day warms up - and removing them is much easier than putting them back in ;-)

    But, as far as your comment that 'it makes sense to wear armoured, protective gear all the time ... I agree ... All the gear all the time ... Watch out!

    1. I think did not explain the advantages of rain overjackets or overpants vs. waterproof liners very well.

      True, zip in liners are not much of a hassle in jackets, they are much more of a hassle with pants. Olympic mesh pants have waterproof liners, to take out or put in the liners on the road, requires the complete removal of the pants, which means finding a washroom somewhere. (depending on the modesty of the individual)

      I have a jacket with a waterproof liner, which blocks all the cooling vents when installed. I find it easier and more reliable to put on a rainproof jacket over the motorcycle jacket when it rains. I have several different motorcycle jackets, and I don't even bother to test each one to find out if its waterproof liner actually works. Not only that, but even if the liner works today, it may not a year from now (according to the manufacturers own instructions). On the other hand, my rain jacket is PVC plastic, and it is as waterproof now as it was 20 years ago.

      Last, but not least. If I get out in the rain with my high visibility jacket, it gets dirty enough to need machine washing. My leather jacket gets wet enough to take days to
      dry out. But if I cover them with my outside rain jacket, they stay relatively clean and dry.

  2. Its true! You will survive a ride in the rain with the help of motorcycle rain gear. You should wear a one piece or two piece motorcycle rain suit, boot, gloves, goggles and jacket.